Keeping love and a sense of humor alive in times of struggle
April 22, 2009
It seems a tall order to hold love in one’s heart and to see humor in situations that cause anxiety and fear, but when you come right down to it, what are our other options? Say for example, you are losing your house. There isn’t much to laugh about in that as a whole, however, there are moments that wait for us to notice reasons to laugh. Perhaps the “for sale” sign keeps blowing down because the house is grieving losing you! (Yes, I believe houses talk…and even more interesting is that I talk back).
And there are even more opportunities to experience the wakening of love. In mourning losses, fear and anxiety often take up most of the space, especially when contemplating rebuilding a life from nothing. If fear and anxiety can be moved aside for a moment, usually one can find the softer emotions underneath, such as grief, sorrow and perhaps even the primordial suffering of being alone or left behind. One of the fundamental teachings of Buddhism is impermanence; everything changes all the time; it is the nature of nature. That being so, we have nothing but the moment we are in and we have a choice about how to respond in the present moment. Most of us (myself included) resist the notion of impermanence and we reach for something to hold on to. Most of the time, we hang onto other people or the stuff we have; cars, houses, computers…in my case it’s bicycles and Nordic ski gear. In times of bargaining with the gods, I often say, “take anything, but leave my bike and my skis.” And then I envision myself living in a tent with my bike and my skis…and coffee; I have to have coffee….and I can’t live without hand lotion. See? I’m doing it again.
In contemplating loss, love is available in mourning the loss. The softness of grief opens hearts and makes love possible. Even losing a car to the bank is worthy of grief. Not only does it make getting places really difficult, but many people experience shame when they cannot afford to pay their bills. In our culture, people bring an inordinate amount of suffering upon themselves by associating their self-worth with what they do for a living or the things they own. When one loses a job or a house even when the circumstances are beyond their control, people still feel shame, mostly because they feel orphaned in a culture that places high value on wealth and what we do for a living. In so doing, the value of personhood is lost, which is tragic. To bring love back means being compassionate with ourselves and others in times of suffering. The image of a child left out of the games on the playground, ostracized for being different, usually engages our compassion for what it feels like to be left behind. There are very few who are not struggling in some way these days and in these tender times, offering ourselves some compassion makes it possible for us to give it away to others. And it opens us to receive it as well.
” Kimball Pier is a practicing therapist and substance abuse counselor. She has an M.S. in marriage and family therapy and advanced divorce mediation certification. Reach her at